Saturday, December 8, 2007

Leaving China

My flight to Cairo left from Hong Kong so all of the foreign teachers decided it was a good excuse to take a long weekend there. I was the only one who hadn't been before, but traveling with others was nice. Our overnight train to Guangzhou had no available sleeper cars so we were stuck trying to sleep on hard seats. The train was delayed for about an hour due to a police search of the train, so it took over 9 hours to reach our destination. From Guangzhou, we had to take a train to Shenzhen that took another hour and a half. We had to then do customs for leaving China and for entering Hong Kong…another hour at least. Then, we took a subway into Hong Kong; to the last stop took another hour easily.

When we arrived at the hostel that we had reserved online we were faced with more problems. The three bed room the boys had reserved was a twin and a full bed. The double room we girls had requested was without our own bathroom.  We worked it all out eventually, but what a headache! Especially when the workers don't understand what you are trying to explain to them!  My first thoughts on Hong Kong were how great it was that there were people who weren't just Chinese. Hong Kong is a big mix of multiple cultures and apparently there are a lot of Americans living there – I could easily see why.

We first headed from Koloon Island where we were staying to Hong Kong Island. We walked around a bit and headed to Victoria Peak.  We took a tram up 370 m to the plateau (in about 10 minutes!) and then we went up to the 7th floor of Peak Tower for a view back down to the city. The area is a huge favorite of expats but it apparently ridiculous expensive.  The view was amazing! I have never seen such a skyline! After the sights we went to the Wan Chan district for dinner (Mexican food!!!).  And later we had drinks while watching the local pastime – hookers.

For Day 2 we walked around to see what there was to be seen. Shopping is the main past time for most people who come to Hong Kong. The shopping centers and huge, various, and crowded constantly.  The streets were crowded – there are about 7 million people living in and around Hong Kong and they are all pushed together on the 10% of available land space. Add in all of the crazy tourists, and you get the idea! After shopping around for the day we headed back to Hong Kong island to check out the happening party scene.

Day 3 was made better by a guy I meet the night before – Herman. Everyone else had to leave around 3 to head back to Pingxiang . Herman showed us around a little while we kept all of our stuff at our hotel. After the other guys headed out, I left my stuff at Herman's and he showed me around more of Hong Kong Island. The Central district of the city is much cleaner than Koloon and not quite as packed with tourists. After some delicious sushi and an escort to the airport, I was headed off to Egypt.

The flight from Hong Kong to Doha, where I had my layover, was 10 hours long. I slept the whole time. We got in at 430 am and by 530 I was checked into a hotel. The flight to Cairo didn't leave until 1pm so the airline put us passengers into hotels. We were put into rooms together and amazingly, the girl who I roomed with is from Pingxiang! She hasn't lived there in about 10 years but I had to do a lot to convince her that I really lived and worked there. There were at least 6 other Chinese people that were on our flight and at our hotel, so we decided to walk around together. Nicole and the others really wanted to see a famous TV tour but we couldn't really find it or figure out how to get there. I decided to walk around more and see what I could see instead of staying in the hotel. I didn't see much exciting, but at least I earned the stamp I got in my passport.

Next stop: Cairo. The flight is only 3 hours from Doha and I am getting met at the airport by the conference representatives so it should be smooth sailing for the next 2 weeks.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

CD76: Nothing Much

A lot of nothing has happened since I last reported, but I guess it really is the small things that make a life of experiences so I will share anyway.

I started teaching 2 classes 1 day a week and a local high school. In an incredible turn of events, I was presented with text books for both classes before I started teaching and all of my studenst have the same books. One class is called Amercian Album and is a sweet set of videos and related activities following a 'typical American family'. While the book was published in the late 90's I am sure all of the material is from the 80's. I don't think the students believe me when I tell them people in America don't really have huge hair, giant reading glasses, and neon clothes. The other class is supposed to be a review of American history. I asked the students what an American was and they said an attractive person with blonde hair and blue eyes, who is tall, rich, and kindhearted and who speaks English very well while doing whatever they want. I am really started from ground zero there.

We had 3 days off of school/teaching for a sport meeting that lasted equally as long. All of the foreign teachers participated in the opening ceremonies which began with an Olympic-esque passing of the torch. As for the actual sports events, Andreana and I were the most active participants (as usual) and did fun stuff like 3 legged races and 10 people (in a line with your hands on the shoulders of the person in front of you) train races. Clyde and I ran with Bill (Chinese teacher) and a bunch of female students in the 3000 meter run and smoked them all. Bill apparently doesn't know how to do anything slow and, despite running in jeans, ran almost 2 miles in under 12 minutes. Clyde also smoked me in some crazy attempt to catch Bill so I thought I was doing terribly, but I finished 3rd at a time of 13:08. That is roughly a 6:30 minute mile. What? Do I think I am in high school again? Andreana and I also participated in the 4x100 meter relay. All of the events were department vs. department. The Foreign Language Department therefore smoked the other departments on the relay and I think we won by a good 100 meters. It's like they weren't even trying to catch us!

All of the foreign teachers and 3 of our students took a day trip to Changsha, the capital city of the Hunan Province. It is where I flew into when I first came to China but didn't have any time to check out. It's a 2 hour train ride west of Pingxiang. We did a ridiculous amount of walking and apparently didn't do the one thing one must do when visiting Changsha so we have to go back. The city was big and we found a really cool bar were I had a nice draught German beer. That was the highlight.

Halloween, one of the best holidays in the world, was indeed sub par. Andreana and I decided to dress up even though Halloween isn't celebrated here despite what the Chinese people think. They know it is a holiday so they celebrate, they just don't do much else. We mistakenly agreed to go to 2 different parties thinking they were the same so the evening started with a bit of drama. The short version is Andreana was a nerd, I was a witch, and we went to 2 bars were Andreana danced her butt off and I tried to keep everyone happy but failed. Boo!

I donated blood for the first time in my life. I didn't pass out but definitely turned pale and a little blue which I am sure Heather is all too familiar with. I found out I have O positive blood which I believe makes me a universal donor. I feel some sort of call to donate now despite the fact I hate needles, have a low tolerance for pain, and want to faint and the sight of my own blood. I think it will be restricted when I return though... I suppose I will just deal with that when I get back to the States.

Between Andreana and I, we have adopted 4 fish, 1 bunny, and 1 puppy - none of which lived past a week so we are giving up on pets in China.

I have taken up a new hobby - cross stitch. While my first attempt was rather lame I would like to blame it on the lack of instructions and the provided instructions being in Chinese. Before you start thinking I am turning into a little old lady hear this: this afternoon I, along with the other foreign teachers and a handful of students, will be performing a song at the opening ceremonies for the 2nd Annual Pingxiang College Cultural Festival. Again, all is right with the world.

New pictures have been posted in the following albums: Pingxiang October and November, Trip to Changsha. Disclaimer: In the October album, there is a picture of a dog at a meat market. While the picture is not very explicit in itself, it is still a dog and I don't want to shock anyone.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

CD58: 2007 San Francisco Nike+ Women's Half Marathon (in China)

Before I get to the real excitement there are some other random updates I need to make.

First, my passport is back. The government never had it. China Bob took it to get my Foreign Expert Certificate from the local police station and it just took FOREVER to get it back. The Chinese government and I are still like peas and carrots, so stop freaking out.

Second, Andreana and I died our hair black. Why? Why not? I think it looks pretty cool. It was way more drastic of a change for me than her, but it's rockin'. Yes, we do blend in better with the locals but no, it was not our motivation.

Third, we went to a movie set. A student invited Andreana and I to her house and she happens to live right next to 'Movie City' which is in the outskirts of Anyuan City (right next to Pingxiang). The movie set itself was pretty cool. There was also a huge traditional style house on the set where people live but we got to walk around. Andreana and I also happened across some wood carvers in one of the set's buildings so we bought some really cool carvings.

Forth, we had our first birthday here in China! Apparently Western traditions are backwards from the Chinese. In China, when it is your  birthday, you take all of your friends out and they don't pay for anything. Oh well! We kept it traditional for Clyde's big 2-8 festivities.

Now to the reason why I have gathered you all here today. Through the magic of technology and the masterminds that are Ipod and Nike, I ran the SF Women's Half Marathon today! Clyde joined me and we managed to run 13.1 miles without dying or being killed by some crazy Pingxiang motorist. As it was my first half marathon, i am not sure how my time compares but we finished in 1:48:30 with an average mile pace of 8:16. Not too bad I would say!

After we ran we ended up meeting up with a teacher who was here last year. He is dating one of the students here and was in town visiting for her birthday. We went to Pingxiang's big park -E Hu and found a previously undiscovered amusement rides area and possibly the most depressing zoo in the world.

There are tons of new pics up so check them out!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

CD43: How I Spent My National Day Vacation

After 4 short weeks of school, the only reasonable thing to do is to take a week off, right? Granted we still had to make up Thursday and Friday classes on the weekend, but a movie quickly solved that problem. Sunday night all of the foreign teachers and one of the Chinese teachers got together to celebrate the start of the holiday and we all stayed up too late in consideration of the fact we had to be up at early to head to the train station. Our train left at noon but considering how late we stayed up,11 was very early!

Another American teacher Andreana met earlier in the summer had decided to come to Jiangxi Province with one of his students to visit the student's hometown. We all (minus Tim) decided to meet up with them. Shangrao is 6 hours east of Pingxiang by train and despite not having seat assignments for the trip, we were able to get seats, sleep a little, and arrive in one piece. Michael and his student Gray met us at the train station along with Gray's cousin and his girlfriend Jane. We decided to grab dinner first and they went to the river that runs through town for some entertainment. There were fireworks going off (as usual) and the bright night lights of the city made the river really beautiful. We all rented some Dragon Boats and paddled along the river enjoying the sights and sounds.

Tuesday we got up at 4am to hike to the top of Yunbi Peak to great the new day at sunrise. The hike up the peak was a bit treacherous, especially in the dark, and getting up so early wasn't fabulous, but the view was amazing. The whole way up, other climbers were scattered about stretching, doing yoga, and yelling out (greeting the day apparently). Many elderly people climb the mountain every morning and this was made obvious as they jogged past us trudging up the stairs. Sunrise was viewed from the Yunbai Pavilion at the very top. On the way back down, we stopped at the Dongyue Hugao Temple. Both of these buildings are within the Langya Yun Bi Feng National Forest. The temple was beautiful inside, but photos are limited there.

Leaving the temple and walking back into town we came across one of the biggest street markets I have seen so far. There was all sorts of crazy stuff going on. Some highlights were the birds - you could see all of the stages from alive to ready for dinner (slightly disturbing...), people carrying their live birds home by the wings, bicycle optometry, and baby turtles to eat. We decided to walk back along the other side of the river after the police stopped us from taking a fun pedicab home. After a huge lunch with Gray's family, we played mahjong, cards, and rested before having dinner with Gray's family.

All of Wednesday was spent with Gray's uncles fishing out in the country area surrounding Shangrao . Andreana and I both caught fish but none of the other foreigners did! HA! I finally caught something other than trees and tires!! The uncles caught many fish and we had some for dinner. This day also marked the start of our ''trying interesting food'' spree. We had sugar cane (straight from the cane), rice paddy eel, cobra soup, and little fish (whole) with our dinner. We missed out on dog as it still isn't readily available - they don't eat dog when it's warm outside.

Thursday Gray took us to the Shangrao Concentration Camp which is where the Kuomingdang built a jail to detain many Chinese military officials along with others. The Chinese have kept the site as a memorial to the martyrs and it is a powerful spot for the Red Army as there was a prisoner uprising and many of them escaped and killed those detaining them in the process before rejoining the Chinese forces. In addition to the memorials, they have preserved one of the prison buildings and side rooms that was used for torturing prisoners. The day was made slightly more light hearted by an early evening basketball game between the foreigners and Gray's uncle (who is a PE teacher at a college)  and his colleagues.

There is an old train station in the middle of town and they turn the plaza outside of it into a huge restaurant area at night. Seemed fitting... This is where we got to try some more fun stuff. We all tried frog, river snail, pig's feet, chicken feet, undetermined pig insides... We finished off the last night there with a trip to the KTV with Gray's mom, aunt, and uncle for some late night singing and dancing.

Friday we decided to check out the ''Walking Street''. Every city has a (supposedly) pedestrian street lined with shops that is supposed to be the cool place to go. For our last day in Shangrao, Gray's aunt and uncle wanted to treat us to a traditional Chinese trip to the salon. The first put some strange stuff in your head and give you the longest head massage. Then, the wash your hair and massage your face, neck, arms, etc. It was relaxing but would make any trip to get your hair cut quite the time commitment. All but Ben resisted the urge to get ''fashionable'' Chinese hair styles - I am still not fully comfortable with the female mullet. After dinner with Gray's family one last time, we headed back to the train station, back home, and back to reality.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

CD37: Pop Star Mentality

Rehearsal schedules are such a pain, aren't they? They are much worse when they are useless. Sunday was our first rehearsal for our big performance. I think that was the last day we sang our song more than 1 time. Lisa, the Chinese girl we sang with picked Madonna's La Isla Bonita as our performance piece. There was brief talk of adding a second Madonna song or perhaps even Shakira (to keep the Latin flavor) but then Andreana had to mention that she knows the words for a well-known Chinese song called Pen Yo or 'Friends'.
 

Not only do I not know this song, I don't speak Chinese, Apparently that was an oversight. So, it's decided that it will be La Isla and Friends (in Chinese) so we have to find costumes. It is only until we actually arrive at the theatre on Sunday that we realize that this is an all out production…requiring a costume, rehearsals, etc. So, they found these great Spanish-style skirts for us and because we refuse to combine it with either a different Spanish-style tube top or an Asian-style vest, we are left to find our own.
 

Our next rehearsal is Wednesday. Because Andreana and I both teach, we don't arrive until 4pm and there aren't many other performers there. We then realize that we might be the only performers who are in fact not professionals. The good news was that we didn't rehearse until everyone else was done and gone. We sing our songs maybe 3 times in our silly skirts and are told to add some dancing. I read the Chinese song off the paper and tell myself I will have it memorized in 4 days. We then eat and drink with the owner of the theatre and his associates and call it a day.
 

Thursday we finally find out what the deal is with the holiday the following week. We had been hearing mixed tales of having to make up classes from the National Day Holiday where we get a week off, but none of the stories agree to when and why these make up days are needed or even that they actually happen. A holiday off from work means no work, right? So, in light of all of this confusion I finally corner the dean and request some answers. Apparently the 1 st, 2nd, and 3rd are the actual National Day holidays but the school gives the students/teachers the whole week off. Because they should technically have class on the 4th and the 5 th, those day's classes must be made up on the Saturday and Sunday before the holiday. The idea of getting up for my 8 am class for 2 extra days isn't great, but what can you do?
 

Thursday night we have rehearsal again. This time it is a dress rehearsal, which no one bothered to mention to us, and we arrive with everyone else so we get to see what we are working with for the first time. The performance is meant to honor local civil servants who will be receiving awards and to honor ..:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /> China, for it is her day. Before any rehearsing gets underway, Andreana and I end up posing for roughly a million pictures with a large group of the civil servant men who will be performing. Rehearsal seems more real this time as the whole show is run through. Most everyone else is in their costumes and we are quite blown away by it all. Again they have us go last but there are many people there to watch us. I still haven't learned my Chinese song so I just turn off my microphone and lip-sync. We sing 1 time then go and have dinner and drinks with Lisa after finding shirts for our costumes.
 
Friday is our last rehearsal before the big show and Andreana and I are not happy with this. First, we are so behind in getting anything done for our school work that it is starting to stress us out. Second, we have no time to breathe as we keep having rehearsal right after teaching and don't get back until after dinnertime. So, we unhappily go to rehearsal at 230 – 30 minutes late. (Lisa's fault, not ours.) Many of the other performers aren't there or are late so Mr. Wang (the head guy) proceeds to yell at everyone for a good 30 minutes. We then sit around for about 2 hours while some of the other groups do their routines multiple times. We are told that we won't be using our previously discussed costumes and that we will instead have to wear our own clothes. They think this will help us feel more comfortable and help us to act more 'sexy'. We are then told to go home. Yes, without singing our song or doing our dancing at all. We had been invited to our students' parties all week for the holiday but were unable to attend due to rehearsals so we declined dinner offers to head back to school. We lucked out and made up 1 of our classes that would have been Sunday that night by watching a movie. Sweet.
 

Saturday morning we both have to teach 1 class. We were expecting more rehearsal before the performance but instead, we just met up with the other performers, directors, etc for dinner before the show. Thank goodness I thought to bring nice dresses with me to China and thank goodness Andreana is close enough to my size. We wore our dresses to dinner thinking everyone else would be dressed up. Needless to say, we were slightly overdressed. Despite the sold-out tickets, we talked Mr. Wang into getting us tickets for the other foreign teachers so they could come as well. Someone had to video tape it, right? The performance as a whole was pretty cool. There were fireworks, bubbles, tassels, crazy costumes, the whole nine yards really. Sadly, we had to watch it from backstage, but we got a good enough impression of the goings on. We were expecting crazy Chinese-style makeup but it wasn't that bad – they did make us both very pale though.
 

After the performance, we went to a club with the other foreign teachers, Lisa, and a guy from the performance (along with his sister and her boyfriend). It was pretty unlike anything else we have seen here. To keep things PG, I will just say it would make my San Diego boys quite envious. There was a ton of techno/dance music and we danced until the wee hours of the morning. It was a crazy end to a crazy week.
 

Pictures are up and available now under 'China: Performance of a Lifetime'. The video of the performance is too big to upload. If anyone knows of a free video editor I can get online, please let me know!

Monday, September 24, 2007

CD30: Has It Really Been A Month Already?

A Collection of Mini Stories:

When we went to KTV with Ester, she got back past her curfew. Long story short, she got beat up by the acting "gate keepers" and when I tried to figure out what could be done to right this wrong, I was told that this type of thing was "normal" and Ester was told to not tell the foreigners things that would give them a bad impression of the school.

While running around the track, I was hit in the face with a soccer ball. I got a bloody nose, a bruised face, and a scab on my nose. Clyde laughed and no one else came to my rescue. Heaven forbid I be seriously injured here!

A drunken Grandfather kicked in my door then proceeded to hand me my "lost" keys that had been given to him about an hour before. He then returns to repair my lock and door frame which he broke. Yes, he ran and kicked my door ninja style. No, I don't think he had anything else to do either.

My refrigerator has been returned to me, but my computer is still not working. I am contemplating throwing it out the window.

Speaking of the window, a small-cat-sized rodent came in through my window by pushing the screen open and shoving its body through. It then proceeded to wake me up, scare the crap out of me, make me chase it around my apartment, make me scare it out from under my bed, climb up the window screen, sit on the top of the window frame, then exit just as swiftly as I am guessing it entered.

Our first rehearsal was Sunday. Good times. Everything else is staying under wraps until it actually happens. We did get tickets for the other foreign teachers so pictures of this event will be available. I also have to learn an song in Chinese by then. Wish me luck.

I have not been in possession of my passport for almost 2 weeks. When I asked Bob about this, he did not give me a clear answer as to when it would be returned. My Visa expired on the 22nd and I do not know if I have a new one yet. I do not know if I have a resident's permit that will allow me to stay here. I do not know when I will be getting my medical clearance forms either.

Next week there is no school. Bob told someone, who passed it down the grapevine, that we would have to make up the classes we miss that week on the Saturday before and the Saturday after the vacation. After much stress, confusion, and conflicting stories, I contacted the dean. She informed me that this was not the case, a holiday is a holiday. Thank goodness! We are hoping to travel but have not decided where we are going yet.

The dean has asked me to help her find a school in the US to attend this next fall as she plans on leaving Pingxiang College to get an advanced degree. I am not sure who else knows about this endeavor, but I was just happy I wasn't in trouble when she pulled me into her office.

Along with the BBC website, we do not have access to Wikipedia. This makes me incredibly sad, especially as a majority of my job is explaining things that happen in America to my students. I just want to know, "What did Wikipedia ever do to you China?!"

Tomorrow is Mid-Autumn Harvest Day and the celebrations seem endless. I have already been given 1 moon cake and I was told to expect many more. Moon cakes are a traditional treat for holidays and celebrations. We have also been invited to numerous parties, dinners, and events with no clear details for any of them other than they all start around 7pm.

I have booked my tickets to Egypt for Novemeber and will be having a short stay in Hong Kong before having another, even shorter, stay in Quatar. I have no idea where or what that is. It isn't Paris, but it was much cheaper, so I will make the most of it!

Today I talked about holidays with my students. They had no idea what St. Patrick's Day is. I plan to make this my singular mission while I am here.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

CD27:If Teaching Doesn't Work Out, My Future Is Still Secure

A lot can happen in a week. After the disaster that was last Friday, life looked bleak. That all changed on Saturday when we went to not one, but two karaoke bars. The most popular place here to go for karaoke is called KTV. I cannot ascertain whether that is the name of the chain or if it is short for the Chinese name for "a place where you go to sing karaoke".

We went to the first place with a student from the college, Jimmy, and one of his friends. They hang out a lot with Tim so when they invited him to go, they invited the rest of us to go as well. Clyde was the only English speaker who ducked out, so Ben, Andreana, and I figured we would make the best of it. The KTV was a 5 minute cab ride from school. The building itself was HUGE, dirty, and smelled kind of funny. All of the rooms are private rooms that are rented by the hour. Us girls were feeling a bit outnumbered, so we called Ester and told her to come join us. Jimmy invited his sister and she brought some friends so we ended up rocking it about 10 deep.

They do have some English songs available here on karaoke, but it is a strange assortment. They had some artists we knew, but many songs by those artists weren't ones we had ever heard of. To our enjoyment, they love Backstreet Boys and Michael Jackson. Our Chinese friends kept choosing random titles that were in English and then were shocked when none of the Americans knew them (but they still made us sing). Karaoke here is a very serious affair. When it is your turn to sing, you stand up, you hold the microphone like a pop star, and you sing like your life depends on it.

After this first experience, Andreana and I had a brief shopping intermission with Ester. Ester then calls a friend of her's and arranges that we meet up with him and his friends at our 2nd karaoke place of the evening. This second place we have seen before. Or shall I say we have "noticed" it. It is hard to miss as it is Greek/Roman themed and they have a giant sign outside that has all Chinese save for the word "SEX". Fate has a funny way of sending things your way sometimes.

The inside of this place is immaculate. All of the staff is dressed up in incredible "uniforms". The women at the main door are in ballgowns! The inside is a Greek/Roman theme as well. Where at the first place, the wait staff was sleeping at the front counter and couldn't be bothered to do much of anything, at this place the waitstaff waited inside our personal room to wait on us hand and foot. There was no funny smell, marble floors, and the look of opulence everywhere. The crowd at this establishment was also older...at least our group was. Ester's "friend" is a teacher at one of the English language schools in the city and his guests included the principal of his school, other school officials, some government officials, and their wives.

If we thought the first people were serious, we didn't know what was coming. All of the songs chosen were sad love songs. Many of these songs had parts for both a man and a woman. Not only did the singers sing like their life depended on it, they sounded like professionals. I wonder what they thought of Andreana and I busting out with "Get the Party Started" by Pink. It went over well at the first place...

Of course the only way to accompany this caliber of musical greatness is by formal dancing, so formal dancing there was. Thank goodness I took those ballroom classes back in high school! We also tried our hand at such classics as "Achy, Breaky Heart", some Avril Lavigne, Backstreet Boys (when in Rome...), and goodness only knows what else. Ester, sweet thing that she is, agreed to sing on one condition: Andreana and I had to dance. So, we did. I am sure these people thought we were insane, and we are most likely giving America a bad name too, but oh well.

You are probably getting a good laugh at my expense now, but just wait! It gets better! On Monday, after class, Clyde informs Andreana and I that he got some strange call from Bob asking him if he would sing an English song with some girl. At the time, we thought nothing of it other than it was strange and went about our days. Then, on Tuesday...apparently Andreana and I got calls one right after the other from Bob about singing an English song. He, as usual, was hard to understand, but we got that some girl won an English speaking contest and would be singing a song in English and wanted us to join her. We both agreed, not having any idea what we were getting ourselves into.

Yesterday, we meet a nice girl, Lily, who won an oral English competition and has "moved on to the next round". Apparently the next round happens next Saturday, the 29th. As National Day is around that time, it is a National Day festival of sorts. The event is only for city officials and invited guests...namely us. IT GETS BETTER! Andreana and I are going to be singing Madonna's La Isla Bonita with the girl - on a stage, as a performance, for a competition. What have we gotten ourselves into? We are going to have our first practice on Sunday when Andreana gets back from Hong Kong. On Wednesday we are going to have a dress rehearsal of sorts where we do a mock run through of the entire performance with the other performers and then the gig is on Saturday. Ha! I have a gig... what is happening with the world? I think that karaoke bit really lit a fire somewhere. On Sunday we are going to work out our outfits. Since it is an invitation only event, I have no idea how we will get photo documentation of this event, but it will happen. I will not let you down!  Wish me luck!

Pictures from karaoke night have been added to the "September" photo album on Picasa so check though out for a good laugh as well.

CD21: We Liked It So Much, We Went Back For Seconds

Last Thursday afternoon, around 2pm, we were notified, through the infamous "Chinese Grapevine" that we would be going back to Nanchang the following day. This came as a surprise as most of us had seen Bob on separate occasions that morning and nothing had been said to any of us. Then, someone's co-teacher told them and it worked its way down the line. We were not happy about being kept in the dark or for the short noticed, so we attempted to contact Bob directly. This did not work. I was then contacted by my co-teacher, who said she was told to get my passport from me. Should got really explain why and just said that Bob wanted it, so I said no. We told her, Olina, that we wanted to talk to Bob. She told us that he would be unavailable as he was taking a "rest". We then told her that we would not be handing over our passports to her and wanted to speak to Bob about it directly.

Some hours later, Bob arrived at my apartment and we had a small powwow. He told us that he had put in for us to get a van to go to Nanchang and he had only found out that morning that a van would be available so we would be leaving at 6am the next day. He seemed confused as to our questions as to why we were going – apparently we weren't supposed to be asking questions. Either that, or he didn't want to tell us the reason as he knew it would piss us all of. All 6 of us had to go to Nanchang to get our medical testing done so that we could get some little health clearance book that we have to carry with us when we travel.

This might not seem like a big deal to you, but considering the fact that most of us spent close to 300 USD getting all of our medical testing done in our home countries, per their requirement BEFORE we came, we were not pleased at having to repeat the process. Bob tried to console us with, "You will not have to pay". Super. The classes that we were supposed to teach on Friday needed to be rescheduled, and we could not eat after dinner because of whatever testing they would be doing on us the next day.

Sidebar: Our first Chinese lesson was Thursday night. Unlike last year, this year we do not get our own books to use and instead have library books. We also have a teacher who told us immediately that her first choice was to work for CCTV (the major TV network here) but her language test was only a 92% so she was left being a teacher. I feel really bad for her. The class went okay. Chinese people are amazed at the fact that Americans do not know the phonetic alphabet.  That is how they teach English here so everyone knows all 52 sounds. She was trying to teaching us Chinese phonetically which was slightly difficult as it felt like learning two things at one time. She briefly covered the 4 tonal sounds in the Chinese language, and something called finals (without really explaining what they were), then would say a sentence with some 2 letter word and ask us to figure out what she meant. It was pretty frustrating. As for the take away message, I am not sure how much being able to say "I love lotus root" is going to help me in my day to day needs while in China.

Back to my main story: the day from hell. Andreana and I ended up staying up way too late Thursday night drinking wine and doing voice overs for Chinese movies on TV. 6am came too soon, but we were all outside and ready when we needed to be. I called Bob at 6:15 and asked him where he was – he said he would be another 30 minutes. Note: it is totally typical here for time to pass differently than it does in other countries and if you are going to be late, it is not customary to tell anyone who might be waiting for you. Andreana and I went back to bed. We were on the road by 7am – all hungry, tried, and disgruntled in general at the whole situation.

Nanchang is approximately 3.5 hours away from Pingxiang and we were about 2 hours from Pingxiang when the van broke down. As per usual for me, I was totally passed out and woke up in a repair shop with men hammering away underneath the driver's seat to identify the problem. They told us they would not be able to fix the van quickly for some reason or another and we ended up waiting there for 2 hours for 2 cars from the college to drive out to meet us. (Please keep in mind, it is now about 11am and none of us have eaten for about 15 hours.) We take the cars into Nanchang and arrive at the medical place around 12:30.

I think the people at the medical place were waiting for us to get there. They rushed us through the whole thing, yelling instructions at us in Chinese, slapping devices onto us, yanking up our clothes, and shoving us about in general. The filled out the EXACT SAME forms we had all had our own doctors' fill out and did EVERY single test over. I did have the joy of the added internal organ sonogram…or at least I think that is what it was… Hopefully I have not contract syphilis or polio in the last month.

There was no question that we were going to Pizza Hut for lunch, and that is exactly what we did. By the time we got to the restaurant we were feeling sick, angry, and beyond hungry. We hadn't eaten for 18 hours and most of us had not slept much either. Bob tried his first piece of American pizza and hated it. Sadly, the Pizza Hut at 2pm was the highlight of the day and doesn't make up for what happens next.

Bob tells us that we have less than an hour to wait before the van is ready (they had gotten it to Nanchang) and then we would be headed back home. "Less than an hour" turned into 3 hours and it was 5:30 before we left the city. This time, we made it maybe an hour before the van broke down. Apparently the problem was overheating, and it had not been solved. Bob made us all pile out of the car and wait by the side of the road while it cooled down. The driver then poured some water into the radiator and we were good to go – for about another 30 minutes. We again had to get out of the van, the whole while it is making death throw noises, and walk along the dark highway about 10 minutes to a station area. There, Bob tries to make nice by saying we are stopping for dinner.

By that point, we don't really give a crap as we should have been home, not at some place 2 hours from home. We eat dinner and hear Bob say no one from the school can come to get us, that the van won't go and he isn't sure what to do. We hang out there for at least an hour and then the great decision is made to just go in the van and stop before it gets too hot and then let it cool down before going again. I think we made it 30 minutes before The Fates had a good joke with us and made the spare tire fall off the bottom of the van. Watching Bob and the driver run down the side of the highway in search for a tire and the metal bar that kept it on was worth it though.

After many stops, each requiring we get out of the van and wait by the side of the road to be "safe", we made it home at 1:30am – a mere 8 hours after we left Nanchang. I hope I never go back - at least not with Bob.

New pictures of this trip have been put up as well as more pictures added to the "September" album.

Sidebar #2: I got a computer! In typical local fashion, it has a Chinese operating system (no way to make the primary language English), no access to the Internet, and no cd drive! But it turns on, so that is an improvement. My refrigerator also stopped working (I lost a ton of food) and they took it in for repairs on Sunday. I have no idea when I will get it back.


Editorial comment: In my last blog, I said that my students had been studying English for 8 hours . What I meant to say what that they have been studying English for 8 years . Forgive this error! Probably made me seem like a real ass too! =)

China: Nanchang Round 2 Sept 07


CD21: We Liked It So Much, We Went Back For Seconds

Last Thursday afternoon, around 2pm, we were notified, through the infamous "Chinese Grapevine" that we would be going back to Nanchang the following day. This came as a surprise as most of us had seen Bob on separate occasions that morning and nothing had been said to any of us. Then, someone's co-teacher told them and it worked its way down the line. We were not happy about being kept in the dark or for the short noticed, so we attempted to contact Bob directly. This did not work. I was then contacted by my co-teacher, who said she was told to get my passport from me. Should got really explain why and just said that Bob wanted it, so I said no. We told her, Olina, that we wanted to talk to Bob. She told us that he would be unavailable as he was taking a "rest". We then told her that we would not be handing over our passports to her and wanted to speak to Bob about it directly.

Some hours later, Bob arrived at my apartment and we had a small powwow. He told us that he had put in for us to get a van to go to Nanchang and he had only found out that morning that a van would be available so we would be leaving at 6am the next day. He seemed confused as to our questions as to why we were going – apparently we weren't supposed to be asking questions. Either that, or he didn't want to tell us the reason as he knew it would piss us all of. All 6 of us had to go to Nanchang to get our medical testing done so that we could get some little health clearance book that we have to carry with us when we travel.

This might not seem like a big deal to you, but considering the fact that most of us spent close to 300 USD getting all of our medical testing done in our home countries, per their requirement BEFORE we came, we were not pleased at having to repeat the process. Bob tried to console us with, "You will not have to pay". Super. The classes that we were supposed to teach on Friday needed to be rescheduled, and we could not eat after dinner because of whatever testing they would be doing on us the next day.

Sidebar: Our first Chinese lesson was Thursday night. Unlike last year, this year we do not get our own books to use and instead have library books. We also have a teacher who told us immediately that her first choice was to work for CCTV (the major TV network here) but her language test was only a 92% so she was left being a teacher. I feel really bad for her. The class went okay. Chinese people are amazed at the fact that Americans do not know the phonetic alphabet. That is how they teach English here so everyone knows all 52 sounds. She was trying to teaching us Chinese phonetically which was slightly difficult as it felt like learning two things at one time. She briefly covered the 4 tonal sounds in the Chinese language, and something called finals (without really explaining what they were), then would say a sentence with some 2 letter word and ask us to figure out what she meant. It was pretty frustrating. As for the take away message, I am not sure how much being able to say "I love lotus root" is going to help me in my day to day needs while in China.

Back to my main story: the day from hell. Andreana and I ended up staying up way too late Thursday night drinking wine and doing voice overs for Chinese movies on TV. 6am came too soon, but we were all outside and ready when we needed to be. I called Bob at 6:15 and asked him where he was – he said he would be another 30 minutes. Note: it is totally typical here for time to pass differently than it does in other countries and if you are going to be late, it is not customary to tell anyone who might be waiting for you. Andreana and I went back to bed. We were on the road by 7am – all hungry, tried, and disgruntled in general at the whole situation.

Nanchang is approximately 3.5 hours away from Pingxiang and we were about 2 hours from Pingxiang when the van broke down. As per usual for me, I was totally passed out and woke up in a repair shop with men hammering away underneath the driver's seat to identify the problem. They told us they would not be able to fix the van quickly for some reason or another and we ended up waiting there for 2 hours for 2 cars from the college to drive out to meet us. (Please keep in mind, it is now about 11am and none of us have eaten for about 15 hours.) We take the cars into Nanchang and arrive at the medical place around 12:30.

I think the people at the medical place were waiting for us to get there. They rushed us through the whole thing, yelling instructions at us in Chinese, slapping devices onto us, yanking up our clothes, and shoving us about in general. The filled out the EXACT SAME forms we had all had our own doctors' fill out and did EVERY single test over. I did have the joy of the added internal organ sonogram…or at least I think that is what it was… Hopefully I have not contract syphilis or polio in the last month.

There was no question that we were going to Pizza Hut for lunch, and that is exactly what we did. By the time we got to the restaurant we were feeling sick, angry, and beyond hungry. We hadn't eaten for 18 hours and most of us had not slept much either. Bob tried his first piece of American pizza and hated it. Sadly, the Pizza Hut at 2pm was the highlight of the day and doesn't make up for what happens next.

Bob tells us that we have less than an hour to wait before the van is ready (they had gotten it to Nanchang) and then we would be headed back home. "Less than an hour" turned into 3 hours and it was 5:30 before we left the city. This time, we made it maybe an hour before the van broke down. Apparently the problem was overheating, and it had not been solved. Bob made us all pile out of the car and wait by the side of the road while it cooled down. The driver then poured some water into the radiator and we were good to go – for about another 30 minutes. We again had to get out of the van, the whole while it is making death throw noises, and walk along the dark highway about 10 minutes to a station area. There, Bob tries to make nice by saying we are stopping for dinner.

By that point, we don't really give a crap as we should have been home, not at some place 2 hours from home. We eat dinner and hear Bob say no one from the school can come to get us, that the van won't go and he isn't sure what to do. We hang out there for at least an hour and then the great decision is made to just go in the van and stop before it gets too hot and then let it cool down before going again. I think we made it 30 minutes before The Fates had a good joke with us and made the spare tire fall off the bottom of the van. Watching Bob and the driver run down the side of the highway in search for a tire and the metal bar that kept it on was worth it though.

After many stops, each requiring we get out of the van and wait by the side of the road to be "safe", we made it home at 1:30am – a mere 8 hours after we left Nanchang. I hope I never go back - at least not with Bob.

New pictures of this trip have been put up as well as more pictures added to the "September" album.

Sidebar #2: I got a computer! In typical local fashion, it has a Chinese operating system (no way to make the primary language English), no access to the Internet, and no cd drive! But it turns on, so that is an improvement. My refrigerator also stopped working (I lost a ton of food) and they took it in for repairs on Sunday. I have no idea when I will get it back.


Editorial comment: In my last blog, I said that my students had been studying English for 8 hours . What I meant to say what that they have been studying English for 8 years . Forgive this error! Probably made me seem like a real ass too! =)


China: Nanchang Round 2 Sept 07

Monday, September 10, 2007

CD17: Everybody Nanchang Tonight

Today marked the first day of our second week of school here. I made it through the first week okay but today both of my classes told me the books are boring and they want to just know about America. The hard part is that most of my students have been studying for at least 8 years and their spoken and written English is…sub par to say the least. I am not sure if the determining factor has been that most of their English training has been done by non-native English speakers or if there is some other unknown. From our experience, speaking decent English is not a requirement to be an English major, work in an English department at a college, or teach English to children. We are struggling with how best to help them learn and keep them interested. That is always the teachers' problem though.

I ended up only teaching 3 days at the middle school last week. The students knew more English than we were told they did so it was nice to do more than the A, B, C's. Do not be fooled into thinking that there are no discipline problems with Chinese students! I am sure language barriers can be part of the problem such as when they don't understand what you are asking but they are pretty typical kids. They do have to do military training as well, which is a little intense. The biggest difference at their school was that the students are pretty much self-run. They have different bells for the start and end of class. When the bells ring, the students know what to do. They have 4 45-minute classes with 10 minute breaks before lunch. Then, they have 2 1/2 hours off for lunch and they can leave campus. They return for 3 more 45 minute classes and school ends at almost 5pm.

At the college, our students have similar schedules. They start classes at 8am and they go until almost 5, with the same long break at lunch time. They are enrolled in 16 classes each term which meet for 2 hours a day each. It is more like a full-time job when compared to the college schedules I am familiar with in the states. This is the last week of military training for the freshman. They have morning work from 5 to 7, break for breakfast, regroup at 8, work until 12, then regroup again in the afternoon and sometimes go until the early evening. They also do training on the weekends. Apparently after freshman year it is no longer compulsory. All of the freshman are easily identified because they wear white and red track suits around campus every day.
As for life here, I am still waiting for a computer or for someone to figure out what I mean when I ask for the program to install the Internet host onto my laptop. I am practically living in Andreana's apartment for the company more than anything. We were without Internet all together for all of last week which was pretty terrible. We do try to get out and see more of the city when we can. The biggest restriction on that is that we are locked in at night. Supposedly it is for our own safety, but protection from whom we are not sure. The hours on curfew were supposed to be changed, but as we were locked in at 10pm last week, they apparently aren't. We just climbed over the wall, which wasn't easy. The difficulty factor skyrocketed when we came back to a very angry Grandfather - our keeper. He reported back to Bob that it was Clyde and students from the Middle School so that was a little confusing. Andreana and I are small, but not that small. We ran into this problem with the gate again on Saturday. We went to this Province's capital city, Nanchang for the day and didn't return until 11. At least by that time, we had a borrowed key to get back in. Nanchang was definitely more of a city than Pingxiang. There were many more people, tons of shopping, and a Walmart. There were KFC's on every corner, McDonal's, and even a Pizza Hut (which we should have gone to). The Walmart was the reason we went - in hopes of American products. Walmart in China is worse than you might imagine. There were roughly a million people on the escalators to get up. Then we had to physically fight people to get lockers for our backpacks. As elsewhere in China, there isn't enough for everyone and waiting in line just doesn't happen. At least we were roughed up a little after having to fight to get a table and our lunch. We survived Walmart but weren't too impressed. They did have some American products, but it was all about $30 each. $30 for a small jar of Prego, for a small thing of Jiffy, for a package of Pringles...you get the idea. We wandered around the city a bit as well and saw what there was to see. We took a crazy packed bus there than rode home in the luxury of a charter bus. The train station in Pingxiang was pure insanity. Not liking lines is a big part of that, the love of chaos and a gabillion people help too. People were climbing over the chairs and running people over to get to through the gate onto the platform. Apparently seats are first come, first serve, but the companies sell more tickets than seats so some people just stand for the whole trip. Our trip was only 4 hours, but Andreana said she did an overnight trip before and met people who didn't have seats who were traveling for over 30 hours. That would be another prime example of insanity. After this week, there are 2 more weeks of school before we get a week off. We get a full week off in May as well. We are hoping to use those times to travel a bit! The break between terms is almost 6 weeks long so that will be AMAZING! Japan is the only thing that is really planned for now and that will be in April. We are tossing around some other ideas. The hard part, other than having shotty Internet and not speaking Chinese, is that tickets for buses and trains cannot be purchased online. Our language classes are supposed to start this week, so that will be good. Right now my Chinese is limited to ordering things - "one", "two", "three", "how much", "a little", "I don't want"...all of the basics. New pictures were added to 3 albums...enjoy!

China: Pingxiang August 07
China: Trip to Nanchang, Jiangxi Province Sept 07
China: Pingxiang September 07

Monday, September 3, 2007

China Day 10: Getting the Ball Rolling

Today was the first day of school. My teaching schedule here is something of a joke  - at least compared to US standards. I have 8 classes and each class has around 50 students. I see each class once a week for two hours. There are 18 weeks in the semester, so each class will only consist of 18 meetings. This puts my work load at 16 hours a week. While that is at least half of what is common in the US, get this: we work almost twice as much as the Chinese teachers!! INSANITY!!! Tuesday and Wednesday my "work day" is done at 10am!! This week, I will also be working at the middle school (as was planned for last week). For the 4 days I will be at the middle school I will only teach 10 classes of 45 minutes each! The other teachers here do not understand how light of a teaching schedule this is! Granted, I am not sure what a typical American college teacher's schedule is like, but it seems rather light to me.
 
My 2 classes today went okay. We are still hammering out details such as what books, if any will be used for the classes. Everyone seems to have a different idea. I am teaching 3 classes of oral English and 4 classes of written English to English Education majors. My 8th class is rhetoric (huh?) to so-called undergraduates - the select few who are in a 4 year program here. This is a 3 year school and all of my other students are 2nd years. The freshman don't start school for another 2 weeks as they are doing compulsory military training every day, all day.
 
It was nice to have something to do today more than getting out of bed. My students seemed friendly but shy. I had one student tell me we are "going to be the best of friends". This is WAY different than my start of last year where a student called me a "stupid white b**ch". Don't think they are total angels though. I had 1 student come 30 minutes late without any materials, students who had no pen but paper (??), people talking while I was talking, people listening to mp3 players, and people's cell phones going off.
 
In other life news, Bob is trying to redeem himself by petitioning the school for me to get a brand new computer. In the mean time, the campus server is down so we are without Internet. (I am currently in an Internet cafe type thing that is running me 1.5 yuan an hour...roughly 20 cents.) Everything else in my apartment is up and running well which is nice. All of the foreign teachers are here now: 4 Americans, 1 Brit, and 1 Japanese. We are planning a trip to the capital city this coming weekend as we heard they have a WalMart and we are wanting of some American products. After that trip, if there is anything I need, I will send out an S.O.S. email.
 
Some of the things that I have not seen that I find interesting: tampons, mouthwash, dental floss, deodorant, body lotion, cheese, jelly, and refrigerated milk.  They do sell name brand merchandise but it is more than double the price. Funny way of life is that most American products are made in China. Then they are sent to the US. If places in China wants to carry these products, they then have to but them back from the US and ship them back to China. No, it doesn' t make sense, so don't even try!
 
Some quick cultural observations I have made are as follows:
 
Note: these are based on my limited experience in a relatively small city.
 
1. Spiting and burping in public are common and not uncouth.
2. Giving people way more food than they can eat is a show of honor.
3. Nothing is refrigerated - milk, eggs, water, meat, etc. - and "cold" things are just barely cooler than room temperature.
4. Lines might be made but they count for nothing. Shoving ahead of people is the norm.
5. Clothes are meant to cover your body and matching does not matter - utility is king!
6. "Maybe" means you must and "possibly" means not likely.
7. Women cannot drink alcohol unless a man buys it for them. Chinese women do not drink beer.
8. Smoking is accepted everywhere and at any time. It is rude to ask someone not to smoke or to refuse the offer of a cigarette. If you refuse a cigarette, you should apologize until you are blue in the face.
9. You don't really have to take your shoes off everywhere you go.
10. Women wear heels everywhere they go whether or not they are riding scooters, it's pouring, or they otherwise just don't make sense.
11. Diapers do not exist. Little ones are put in clothes that have the back side cut out and they squat like everyone else (I'm hoping/guessing.)
12. Contrary to popular belief, electronics here are very expensive. A digital camera (around 300 USD) costs the equivalent of 900 USD.
13. Ovens, toasters, toaster ovens and the such are not available.
 
I know that isn't all of the great stuff I wanted to share, but that will do for now. I hope that everyone is well. More picutres will be up soon.
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

China Pictures

Instead of keeping them all over the place, they will all be in Picasa. These are most of the recents pictures with descriptions.

China: Pingxiang August 07


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Pictures, Finally

I wasn't able to access my usual photo album so I hope that you all are able to see these pictures. I ended up getting this week off instead of having to do any training (it's postponed until September) so I am trying to explore the city while I have the days to myself. I hope that you enjoy! Keep your fingers crossed that I get my own internet soon!

Rachael

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2181484&l=f956b&id=10717933

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2181480&l=2a076&id=10717933

Sunday, August 26, 2007

China Day 3: Many unanswered questions

Today is supposed to be the day I start my training at the middle school but I haven't heard mention of it since the day I got here. All Bob said then was that I was doing training with a guy and that it would start today. The only other guy here right now is Tim who is sure it isn't him. The other 2 guys that are coming aren't coming until the end of the week.  I figured my best bet was to get up and be ready in time for breakfast should Bob appear and expect me to be ready to leave.

They are slightly military about the eating schedule here. Breakfast is at 8, lunch at noon, and dinner at 5.  The last 2 days the food has been free so I have been doing lunch and dinner at least but it's hard to work up an appetite when you spend your time doing nothing. As for the food, it is good and we are curious to see if the food that is in the teacher's cafeteria is any different. We are supposed to start eating there this week. There are some things that are going to take some getting use to. Namely, most of the meat we eat still has its face. The whole fish is bearable, the shrimp was a little difficult, but the chicken was almost too much.  Don't believe what they tell you about Chinese food being good for you either. Most of what we have had has been drowned in oil or fat or grease of some sort.  It is also expected that you just stick whatever in your mouth and then spit onto the table whatever isn't edible such as skin, bones, and faces.  We don't get plates, only little bowls, so it's hard to keep all of the waste stuff in there when it's what you are supposed to be eating out of. I finally got to where I will set stuff on the table, but I am not to spitting things out of my mouth yet. I also clean off the table when I am done which is apparently quite comical. I have also refrained from the shoveling method of eating at this time as well and talking with food in my mouth. They also do not use napkins or such. Oh how Chinese restaurants in America have use fooled. We will see who wins out there in the end. Silly Americans.

It is pretty darn cheap to eat here though. My bubble of specialness was burst yesterday when Adrianna and Tim told me they are getting paid the same amount I am. Granted, I didn't tell them what I was getting paid, they just mentioned their salary. I took it from Bob that I was getting paid "based on experience" as the program said I would be. Granted Tim and Adrianna have been here for a month working with middle schoolers, but they are both fresh out of college. Moving on though…apparently the average middle class family of 4 here lives on 1200 yuan a month. We are making about 4000 yuan a month. At the store, 1 liter of milk cost me about 4 yuan. That is approximately 50 cents based on the dollar conversion I last saw of 1USD to almost 9 yuan.  Produce lovers should be shocked to hear I bought 3 Asian pears for 50 cents as well. For anyone who has never purchased these or sold them for many years, in the US they run about $5 a piece.  The meat here is pretty cheap as well, but I am not too sure about it. They have many different things that look like sausages that are unrefrigerated and they had all of their raw meat on tables with ice under them.

I am still waiting on getting my computer fixed/replaced but other than that and some minor issues trying to figure out the plumbing, all of my sinks work now. I might have lucked out and picked the only apartment that has a hot water shower – hooray! The highlight of yesterday, other than sleeping in until 10am, was watching the end of Harry Potter in English and Finding Nemo in Chinese.  Tim bought a bunch of ripped off movies here so I am sure I can work my way through those as well.  I am just hoping that things get rolling a bit so that I have a way to pass the time. Where it's at now, I am a bit of the odd man out. The other 2 Americans met each other 2 weeks ago so they tend to keep to themselves pretty much all though if I am using one or the other's computers, they will invite me to join them. The Japanese woman is shadowed by another teacher who works here and is going to teach Japanese. Her English is pretty limited so lengthy discussions are out of the question anyway. One more American and a British guy are arriving this week too. It was slightly disheartening that the 2 teachers I have spoken too said they don't really like working at this college and one straightforwardly asked me why I chose to work here. Well, I am here now so I would say there is no reason for second guessing. Getting my own internet will be a big bonus. Fingers crossed that it happens soon!

I have already thought of some things I would love from America but I am going to keep it and work on it for a bit before I make any requests. I am going to try to find what I need here, or an equivalent, first.  On a side note: are crickets lucky? I have had one by kitchen sink for about a day now and I am trying to figure out it is some omen or if it just can't figure its way out. Thoughts?

China: Day 1

I spent the morning trying to get my place put together. I have made another video for your viewing pleasure. The computer doesn't work and actually gives off small shocks if you touch it the wrong way. Despite the 3 blankets I put on the couch it's still hard as a rock. Bob did not seem to like my idea of throwing out the useless stuff the last person left so I stuck it in the cabinet. The place was so gross! Imagine living in your current residence for a year or so and not really cleaning it then moving out without taking everything or cleaning. At least I only ended up with 1 razor and some random stuff. The woman upstairs had some very strange personal items left behind including about 5 used tooth brushes. I wonder if part of it is that the people that live here are fresh out of college and have never had their own place. Plus, no lease, no cleaning deposit, what does it matter to them?

I talked Bob into letting me put the refrigerator in the kitchen area but he said I had to put something up so sun wouldn't get on it. Yesterday they were able to fix the toilet so I don't have to shut the water off when I am not using it and then turn it back on when I need it. The bathroom sink dumps water straight onto the floor so that room is a mess. The shower system works okay, and with the open setting, it gave me the opportunity to try to clean the bathroom at the same time.  One of the pipes under the kitchen sink in broken and supposedly they might fix that as well. The wok that was underneath it is totally spent though.

Breakfast was in the student cafeteria again. Cindy, the resident foreign teacher aid who herself is Chinese and teaches English here, informed me that today my fellow countrymen arrive. Hooray. I meet the first guy, Tim, right after breakfast. Jeff and Brian would have loved it: he was wearing a shirt with a huge American flag on it. Other than that, he wasn't very pleasant. Tim and another girl who is here, Adrianna, have been in China since July teaching English to middle schoolers. They have informed me that these apartments are pretty nice compared to what they were in before so I will get over myself.

I tried again with my computer and after getting shocked a couple more times, I decided to try elsewhere. Tim was nice enough to let me use his and he seemed to be in a better mood. I have learned that despite Bob informing me that the internet wouldn't be on until next week, I seem to be the only one without. Save for Tim's shower not having the hook the head sits on, everyone else's apartments seem in perfect order and their previous tenants left them great things like brooms and pots that weren't rusted out. Bob did take me to the store on campus yesterday though and bought me soap, toilet paper, a broom and a towel. It was actually pretty super.

At lunch I met two more foreign teachers, Adrianna who I already mentioned (from upstate NY) and a Chinese man here to teach Japanese. At lunch, we talked Cindy into taking us into town to go to a bigger store to get some necessities and in hope of greater selection from the stuff at the campus store. Trying to buy food when you can't read labels is harder than it sounds. Even cleaning supplies and personal supplies are hard because sometimes the pictures don't make any sense or the translated English is wrong. It was nice to have Cindy there though to help me figure some stuff out. The aisles were lined with workers just hanging out and whenever I got left alone they would push things into my arms and tell me long winded explanations as to why I need it (I am guessing) in Chinese.  A bunch of little kids were also trying to pretend like they weren't following me around the store. In case I have failed to mention, this is one of those places where being white is interesting. People literally stop dead in their tracks to stare and to talk about the crazy white girl (I am guessing). Heaven forbid I do anything scandalous in public, like sneeze for example.

ANYWAY, Cindy asked if I would be doing my own cooking and I am sure I will eventually but right now I was at such a loss in the store I didn't know what to do! They don't have jelly or peanut butter, they don't have refrigerated milk or know what soy milk is. They have about a billion types of eggs, none of which are refrigerated, and some of which were blue or black and coated with strange materials.  They have stuff that looks like bread but I am not sure about it yet. What I thought was yogurt was more like flavored milk type stuff.  Perhaps China will be the ultimate diet plan.

I talked to Bob again about the computer issue.  All he did was reiterate that I was the only one without one. Great.  Now what can we do? I only brought one movie with me – The Inconvenient Truth (go figure) so I have been hoping internet would distract me from watching it already. Adrianna said I can use her computer though so I am going to wrap this up and try to get it online to you guys.

Here is something for you to think about until next time. They give us heaps of food - WAY more than we could ever eat. Would it be rude to take a container with me and bring some home? This is from the school cafeteria… Apparently it's considered rude to not give people more food than they can eat. I don't like it though because I think it's a huge waste. At least we are served family style so I am not the only one held responsible.

Also, once I get internet in my apartment I will look into getting Skype so I can call people. If you have any desire, look into it now on your end to see what needs to be done.